2023-07-24| Partnerships

Sanofi Inks Two Major Strategic R&D Collaborations in a Single Week

by Richard Chau
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Sanofi secured two partnership deals for drug development and commercialization in a three-day stretch last week, with all upfront payments and royalties likely to surpass $2.4 billion in total. The French pharma giant first signed a deal on July 18 with Scribe Therapeutics, founded by CRISPR pioneer Jennifer Doudna, to expand their collaboration. Then on July 20, it entered into a strategic partnership with Recludix Pharma, a U.S.-based biotech company that focuses on developing drugs for cancers and inflammatory diseases.

Related article: Sanofi Goes “All In” to Lead the AI Revolution in Pharmaceutical Industry  

Expanding Partnership with CRISPR-based Biotech Company, Aiming at Novel Sickle Cell Treatments

Founded in 2017, California-based Scribe is a biotech company focusing on the development and engineering of new therapeutics based on CRISPR molecules. The company’s proprietary CRISPR by Design approach to genetic modification engineers bacterial immune systems into a premier suite of genome editing tools for developing safer and more effective genetic therapies. Back in September 2022, the Sanofi-Scribe duo already established a strategic collaboration, with the French Big Pharma paying $25 million upfront and committing over $1 billion for rights to Scribe’s CRISPR CasX-Editing (XE) technologies. This set of genome editing and delivery tools would enable genetic modification for Sanofi’s development of ex vivo natural killer (NK) cell therapies and expand its pipeline of oncology programs.

This time, Sanofi and Scribe are expanding their collaboration into the battle against genomic diseases, with the first focus on the in vivo treatment of sickle cell disease. Under the latest agreement, Sanofi receives an exclusive license to use Scribe’s CRISPR X-Editing (XE) genome editing technologies, which can be combined with its innovative research work in targeted lipid nanoparticles (LNPs) to address such inherited red blood cell disorders. In terms of investment, Scribe will receive $40 million as an upfront payment and may be entitled to receive over $1.2 billion based on the successful completion of certain sales and development milestones. Moreover, Scribe may be eligible for tiered royalties ranging from high single digits to low double digits based on the net sales of any products that may result from this agreement. Additionally, Scribe has the right to opt-in to development cost sharing, as well as co-promotion and profit and loss sharing in the U.S. on one future program coming out of the collaboration.

Small Molecule Collaboration With Recludix Targeting Immunological and Inflammatory Indications

Recludix Pharma focuses on developing SH2 (Src Homology 2) domain inhibitors for the treatment of cancers and inflammatory diseases. An innovative drug discovery platform developed by the company involves the use of custom generated DNA-encoded libraries, massively parallel determination of structure activity relationships, and a proprietary screening tool to ensure selectivity in the selection process.

Recludix’s most advanced programs are focused on STAT (signal transducer and activator of transcription) proteins where abnormal activation is found in inflammatory diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, atopic dermatitis, and inflammatory bowel disease, as well as numerous cancer types including multiple leukemias and lymphomas. 

As per the partnership agreement, Sanofi will have global rights to small-molecule inhibitors of STAT6 protein. Recludix will conduct preclinical research and development of STAT6 inhibitors until Phase 2 clinical trials can start. Thereafter, Sanofi will assume the responsibility for worldwide clinical development and commercialization. Recludix may also choose to share equally with Sanofi the costs, profits, and losses, as well as other co-promotion activities of the partnered product in the U.S. Aside from $125 million in near-term payments, Recludix may receive more than $1.2 billion in potential milestone payments regarding drug development, regulatory approval, and sales of products, together with royalties up to double digits for possible future product sales.

“This collaboration for the advancement of a preclinical oral STAT6 inhibitor speaks to our ability to successfully solve the challenge of drugging this attractive, yet elusive, therapeutic target,” said Nancy Whiting, CEO of Recludix. Frank Nestle, Global Head of Research and CSO at Sanofi, also expressed his excitement about the upcoming partnership with Recludix, regarding it as an opportunity to advance innovative R&D strategies to address immunological and inflammatory diseases, which were once considered an undruggable target. 

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